Las Vegas, NV – Nevada Senator Harry Reid today gave the keynote address at the United States Air Force Forum on Clean Energy. Reid was joined at the forum by the Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin Conaton. The Air Force’s forum brought together leaders from the Department of Defense, the energy industry, as well as state and federal officials to discuss the military’s role in making Nevada the leader in clean energy, and improving America’s security through energy independence. Reid’s prepared remarks are included below.
“Thank you, Under Secretary Conaton. And I appreciate Secretary Donley’s leadership in arranging this important forum on behalf of the Air Force and the Department of Defense. As many of you know, I believe this is a discussion that is long overdue and one that is more urgent than ever given our country’s significant energy challenges.
“The kind of energy we use, how much of it we use and the sources we use to get it are as central to our national security as any other issue. It’s about making sure you can do your jobs to protect us, and it’s about making sure we build a foundation for the jobs of the future – the jobs that will help our economy recover.
“I’m also glad – but not surprised – that the Secretary chose Las Vegas for this event. There isn’t a better place to have this conversation than right here in Nevada. This state has some of the nation’s richest solar and geothermal energy resources – enough to power the nation several times over.
“Nevada, of course, is home to the crown jewel of the Air Force’s training and flight-testing mission: Nellis Air Force Base. Just a few miles from here, more than 31,000 personnel and dependents live and work. They carry out incredible and incredibly important missions. We are also home to Creech Air Force base, the Fallon Naval Air Station, Hawthorne Army Depot, and more than 3,000 soldiers and Airmen in the Nevada National Guard.
“The men and women who serve at these bases are doing an outstanding job defending our country. I have worked hard as the Senate Majority Leader to give them the resources and support they need to perform their service, and do so as safely and successfully as possible.
“I have also long recognized that our military has a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to play a leading role in making the United States a clean energy leader. The military is not only a top innovator and consumer of new technologies, but it also the single largest consumer of energy in the United States.
“As you probably know, the Defense Department buys more oil than anyone else in the world. DOD is responsible for about 80 percent of the government’s total energy consumption. We’re talking more than a hundred million barrels of oil every year and billions of kilowatt-hours of electricity. The Department’s energy bill easily tops $10 billion every year. These are some of the costs of using last century’s energy resources.
“The President and Secretary Gates are as determined as I am to turn that around. Congress set aside significant funding in the Recovery Act and provided detailed direction in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 to move us in the right direction.
“Not surprisingly, you’re holding up your end of the bargain. You’re following through on your commitment to use energy more efficiently, to use cleaner alternatives and to integrate clean-energy technologies in your operations at facilities and in the field.
“The Air Force is ahead of the curve. You were flying B-52s with hybrid fuels four years ago. We need you to keep leading like that. We need you to keep setting a good example for the nation on how to use energy.
“Last year, the President and I visited the 14-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant at Nellis. That facility is one of Nevada’s first three utility-scale solar plants, and the largest of its kind in North America. It is a tremendous example of the Air Force leading the way. The Fallon Naval Air Station in Nevada isn’t far behind – it is exploring its geothermal resources and will hopefully have a new power plant soon.
“This is a really good start, but there is a whole lot more we can and should do to address our critical energy challenges. We still have to more aggressively deploy clean, renewable energy at DOD facilities here at home and in forward operating areas around the world.
“As many of you know, fixed defense installations in the United States are 99-percent dependent on the commercial power grid and other critical national energy infrastructure. But that infrastructure is often fragile. That poses serious risks to critical missions and assets – risks we can’t afford. On-base or near-base renewable energy generation and storage can significantly reduce those risks and help bring down long-term costs.
“Today’s conference is an important step forward toward addressing those challenges. It’s equally important that we use this opportunity to create jobs and reduce civilian energy costs and pollution.
“Deploying renewable energy projects near military bases, especially Air Force bases, has been challenging for some time. I have thought for many years that we could benefit from a more collaborative and transparent process to ensure that these projects and economic development would happen without interfering with the Pentagon’s mission.
“It’s important that we get this right. As our nation uses more and more renewable energy, much of that investment will take place in the wide open spaces of the West, places like Nevada, places where the military has some of its most important assets.
“Last month, Energy Secretary Chu and Interior Secretary Salazar joined me here to announce the Solar Demonstration Zone at what used to be called the Nevada Test Site – now the Nevada National Security Site. I hope the Air Force and other Defense agencies will work with the Energy Department on this site to better understand clean energy technologies, and to improve military systems and renewable energy projects compatibility.
“Working together to solve our energy problems now will make us more secure and better prepared in the future. But the longer we wait, the more dependent we are on oil – especially foreign oil – and the more pollution we spew into the air, the less safe we are.
“That makes it important for all of us – renewable energy developers, electric utilities, manufacturers, federal agencies and the U.S. military – to do everything we can to make today the first day of the new clean energy economy.
“The Air Force is one of the reasons that day will come soon. You used to ask recruits to “Cross into the Blue.” Now your nation needs you to help us cross into the green. Our national security and economic security are both at stake.
“I look forward to working with you so our energy leadership can match our military leadership, and make it – like you – the best in the world.”